Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

Stream of Consciousness: Hearthstone HCT Disconnects

I’ve always been a skeptic regarding the sustainability and success of esports. It sounded really cool for a while, and I often joked that I should “drop everything and play games for a living.” Reality sank in, and continues to when you see esports teams disbanding all the time, or dropping their teams. Esports teams remind me of old automakers. Did you know there used to be hundreds of automakers? Now you can mostly name them in minutes. They don’t make Mercury and Oldsmobiles anymore!

A couple days ago, I went to an ASUS Republic of Gamers event to try to win free stuff. Notable esports host Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico was there, playing Overwatch and announcing the raffle. It was cool, I got to play Overwatch on a really fancy gaming rig. I got to sit on a gaming chair. I won a pillow. But in the middle of a busy electronics store, not a lot of people stopped by. Even the raffle itself was like 10 people vying for the grand prize. Which makes my not winning it feel worse… But even the ASUS employee asked if I was going to the ESL at Barclays Center, and my response was, “what game are they playing?” Is esports here in New York? Not sure.

In the realm of Hearthstone esports, my views have always been colored by RNG, not other problems. Once Yogg-Saron decided a game, all bets were off. The “anything can happen” aspect of Hearthstone isn’t the best vehicle for something important. It could be fun and spectacular, but fairly back-breaking to those who ultimately work for nothing.

The focus of this weekend, the 2017 Americas Summer Playoffs were mainly disconnects. This one is a doozie.

Here is something from Twitter:

Capture.PNG

Here is something from Reddit:

Capture2.PNG

Blizzard at least acknowledged the problems:

Capture3.PNG

If the internet gets everyone riled up enough, this seems like a big disaster. There could be some fixes down the line, but what if it isn’t enough.

Some practical ideas on how to fix it:

  • In-game tournament mode.

I’m just being a troll by mentioning this, and I don’t know if it will come. I don’t know if the game is built for it. I don’t know if it is worth the money to develop. I’m just going to assume this isn’t coming, and look for other solutions.

  • Scrap the current Innkeeper system and hold them at bigger venues.

The Innkeeper makes the tournament experience seem grassroots and is definitely very flavorful. It helps build human relationships in a digital game. But in the end, is it worth it? The problems associated with this weekend in Hearthstone esports could likely have been avoided. I mentioned the Barclays Center earlier, where they are playing CS:GO at ESL. They have concerts there. It will definitely have the capacity for an esports tournament. Internet problems seem to be an issue of 1) not having strong enough wireless fidelity and capacity (sorry I don’t know the tech words), 2) not having enough manpower to build/strategize/create better, 3) not having enough money to build something better.

Remember when Buffalo Wild Wings was a bit of a meme? That actually turned out quite decently, and people at those venues didn’t have disconnection issues. I don’t think it was luck that Buffalo Wild Wings had good enough internet. They have standards for quality, and can afford it.

  • Force everyone to play on a wired connection.

Earlier in the year when I had a job, I had college student interns. Once when trying to connect a printer, I asked her where the ethernet port was on the printer. She didn’t know what it was, responding, “I’ve had WiFi all my life.” I was shocked and the moment will likely remain with me forever.

I don’t trust WiFi. I’m not sure if it is because I literally can’t see it or what, but I just don’t believe in it. Not only are your speeds slower, but interference can come from anywhere. Background applications and programs can hog bandwidth. A train could be passing outside and cause a disturbance. I just had to install a WiFi extender, since my room can’t get connect right.

A trusty ethernet cord will eliminate most disconnect problems. Sure, you could have issues with the router/modem. Sure, you could mess up with ethernet in other ways. But having a tenable connection is better than something floating in the air.

The dark truth (NA Internet)

It’s also possible that the problems can never be resolved. Not unlike our healthcare system, the internet in America sucks. Anyone who has paid for internet here knows they aren’t getting a good deal. You have to pay an arm and a leg for internet (and no, I don’t want phone in this day and age), and have to pay a lot after the contract year. Disconnections happen, and they may not resolve for a while. Internet companies are greedy and can do whatever they want. They aren’t regulated too much by the FCC, and the consumer has very little say at all.

Innkeepers may never have the capability to have decent internet, given the poor built environment for it. No matter what upgrades you can make, it will always be shaky footing. While a big venue like the Barclays Center can shoulder the load, costs are costs. I don’t think it is in the cards to borrow a big venue for these Hearthstone esports events.

 

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Visualizing the Hearthstone Arena Synergy Picks

Visualizing the Hearthstone Arena Synergy Picks

The Hearthstone Arena is in a weird place now. Untouched for practically 3 years of the game’s existence, the format is now seeing changes here and there. One of the more recent changes, introduced around the time Knights of the Frozen Throne was released, are the synergy picks. Your first 2 picks out of 30 in the Arena all come from a much smaller pool of cards, the synergy pool.

Most people who play Hearthstone don’t care about the new synergies, or don’t know it exists. People seemingly only care about Ranked and even Tavern Brawl, more than Arena. In the minority of Arena players that do care, some people like the new synergy, and others don’t.

It won’t take a gun to my head to have me tell you that I don’t like the new synergy system. I don’t like being forced to pick a mediocre or subpar card, for the chance of a fringe synergy. My game is about tempo, and synergy is just extra. But that didn’t stop me from thinking about these picks, given how pervasive they are in the Arena now. How good are these synergy picks, and across classes?

Methodology

  • I tried to determine how good each synergy pick is, in respect to the class-rarity pool. I used HSReplay.net to find where a card ranked in “Deck winrate,” out of all cards for that class, in that rarity. Deck winrate varies greatly among classes, so I decided to look ranks within class. Rank analysis is used in nonparametric study design, and is not outlandish.
  • I pulled the source of synergy picks from Heartharena. I’m not sure if this list is complete, but from a visual check, it seems correct.
  • I made 3 tables for Synergy Commons, Synergy Rares, and Synergy Epics.
  • Each card received a percentage. This percentage stands for percentile in the class-rarity pool. e.g. The #10 deck winrate card out of 100 will be 10%.
  • I added a color scale on the spreadsheet for visualization. Green is good, yellow is meh, and red is bad.

Assumptions

Misinterpreting or having misleading data is worse than having no data, so let’s make some assumptions before the results:

  • HSReplay data is not representative of everyone – People who track all their games, and have decktracking lists are probably better than the average Hearthstone player. While this doesn’t include very good players who play on their phones, I would assume more casual players don’t use the technology that exists for computers.
  • Deck winrate is not perfect – Far from a perfect metric, but the best we have to evaluate card performance. Bad cards in 12-win drafts and good cards in 0-win drafts get muddled in the metric. This goes into the fact that high-performing decks typically have better cards. But individual player skill, outside of the draft isn’t really taken into account.
  • Intervals between ranks are not uniform – Cards next to each other on the rank aren’t separated equally. Typically, the worst card is really bad, and a few percent worse than the penultimate. You may even have cards with the same exact winrate, but placed arbitrarily on the rank order.
  • Data is dynamic – HSReplay data constantly refreshes, and the free version looks at the last 14 days. To avoid changing data in the dataset for analysis, I did not refresh the page I looked at, to make sure I had a static snapshot for all data used.
  • Statistical power is equal – Power is basically the bigger a sample size, the more reliable the results. In the ranks, I included every card not considered sparse. So the rank of a card played 100,000 times is on the same level as a card played 2,000 times. The card played 2,000 times probably needs more reps to see it’s “true deck winrate.”

Limitations

Also some limitations of this analysis/visualization:

  • No legendaries – Legendary picks make up a good portion of the synergy picks actually. But when looking at the data, there wasn’t enough power to have a definitive denominator for each class. For example, The Voraxx, a synergy legendary, was only picked 360 times in 2 weeks by Hunters. Everyone knows it is horrible by now, and avoids it. With that, I scrapped evaluation of legendaries. Know that Medivh, Kazakus and the DK Heroes are all very good.
  • No sparse data – HSReplay automatically filters out cards that haven’t been played much. This is done primarily to weed out old drafts that include Wild or banned cards. However, picks perceived as bad by the public (and subsequently undrafted) sometimes don’t show up. An example would be Am’gam Rager, which is very seldom drafted by Mages, or Blood of the Ancient One for Druids. While it feels bad to leave out currently draftable cards from the ranks, their lack of statistical power had to be considered. Ultimately, only a few cards were left out for each class, which won’t significantly affect the rankings for the synergy picks .

Synergy pick commons

synergy_chart_common

  • Rockpool Hunter shows up consistently as a high-ranking deck winrate card, primarily because it serves as 2-drop stability.
  • Primalfin Lookout is the worst neutral common synergy pick, likely because very few Murlocs were found after picking it.
  • Netherspite Historian is actually in the top third of Priest commons, given Dragon synergy.
  • Warlock got some great expansion cards, but the solid synergy pick commons help too. Same for Druid.

Synergy pick rares

synergy_chart_rare.PNG

  • Tol’vir Stoneshaper is everywhere, as the 4-mana 3/5 is not backbreaking, being off 1 point. Much better than picking Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Coldlight Seer.
  • Devilsaur Egg performs much better in Warlock, possibly due to Unwilling Sacrifice.
  • Book Wyrm confirms Priest Dragon synergy.
  • Warrior has relatively better ranks in the synergy rares, which could mean their overall card pool is worse compared to the synergy picks.

Synergy pick epics

synergy_chart_epic.PNG

  • There are a few relatively safe epic synergy picks in Murloc Warleader, Blazecaller, and Southsea Captain.
  • Blubber Baron is as bad as advertised. Don’t try to make that “synergy” work.
  • The Paladin epic class synergy picks are mostly horrendous.
  • Corpsetaker is predictably best in Paladin, thanks to Divine Shield, but is just the 50th percentile.
  • Warrior has relatively better ranks again in the epic synergy picks. Horrible card pool overall confirmed.

Stream of Consciousness: Hype Should Not Be Fixing Something Broken

It’s 12:30pm here in East Coast, USA, and big news is coming shortly in the world of Hearthstone.

celestial.JPG

To those unaware, or not currently playing Hearthstone, there has been a big Druid problem (and Jade Druid, and Aggro Druid). This probably refers to what Ben Brode teased recently:

brode druid.JPG

The news will break some time in the next few hours, and something will be announced. Something regarding Druid, and perhaps more. Let’s state some things are mostly true:

  1. Druid is busted in it’s current state, for many different reasons.
  2. There are other problems in Hearthstone, with other classes.
  3. The Arena synergy draft system is a disaster.

There’s no denying Druid is a problem in Ranked, and other problems exist. Let’s get to point 2, I think Ice Block is an example of a card that has existed far too long, as it reneges on the “fun and interactive” promise of the game. Some Arena players don’t think 3 is much of an issue, but most are on the train that it sucks. Nobody has to draft Blubber Baron. There’s no reason Frost Lich Jaina appears in 10% of Arenas.

Let me state some other things that are mostly true:

  1. Hearthstone is an amazing game that has kept a lot of players playing it for years.
  2. Hearthstone hype is hyped very well.

Here’s my thought, one that may not be all that original:

Hype should not be invested on things that shouldn’t have been broken to begin with.

I’m really excited about these upcoming announcements today (or announcements of announcements). Even if I have no interest in playing Ranked right now, the news excites me as a Hearthstone player. I want lots of change in a game mode I don’t really play.

But these things shouldn’t be hyped about it. These Druid cards shouldn’t have been allowed to hit the factory floor like they are now. The Arena synergy system shouldn’t have been put in live in it’s current state, without more thought or testing.

I don’t want to be excited about these changes. But there is, for a lack of a better phrase, a hypnotic attraction that Hearthstone has on me that built the hype automatically.

Hype in this game should be spent on announcing new things and content. If this announcement bundles Druid patch changes with a new Ranked laddering system, I take some of it back.

I’m not happy that I will be routinely checking Twitter and Reddit to get on the news today. But I will!

 

Set It All on Fire: A Look at Hearthstone’s Nerf History

Set It All on Fire: A Look at Hearthstone’s Nerf History

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first, Team 5 doesn’t like nerfing cards. They wait a very long time (compared to other games) to make a change. Like it or hate it, that is a core philosophy reciprocated by the devs. With the current KFT Druid continually breaking records, the calls for Druid cards to get the axe grow more vociferous by the day.

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In order to get a sense of when (if) Druid will get a nerf, I decided to look at all the cards that have been nerfed, since the game was officially released post-beta, on March 13, 2014. Wow, I’ve almost played this game 4 years.

It is not a complete science, as older cards get nerfed later on to open up design space, or due to unforseen interactions with newer ones. We can also try to pick out why certain cards were nerfed for what reason.

Release

Unleash the Hounds – 56 days (Release to nerf); 112 days (counting Closed Beta)

  • Unleash has been iterated numerous times in it’s existence, and is honestly a tough one to balance. The 8 weeks to nerf this card from launch is likely one of the fastest nerfs, though the version existed prior in Closed Beta. It was changed to it’s broken form when I started the game.

Curse of Naxxramas

fun and interactive.PNG

Eaglehorn Bow – 131 days

  • It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people played Mage around this time. The Eaglehorn Bow worked Secrets against the Mage to a weapon buff effect, an ability seen much later in Pirate Warriors.

Leeroy Jenkins – 193 days

  • Culprit of the “fun and interactive” meme, I’m surprised this one took this long. The main target was Shadowstep Rogue, which didn’t use any tools from Naxx, except Loatheb. Also possible the streamers of yore didn’t make decks as fast young kids these days.

Starving Buzzard – 193 days (Release to nerf); 286 (counting Closed Beta)

  • The third Hunter nerf out of four cards nerfed. It makes sense to get rid of the Hunter draw engine, but it is possible removing all of their tools at once would’ve been too much. We’ll never know.

Goblins vs Gnomes

Flare – 266 days

  • Seemingly more help for Mages against the Hunter onslaught. Frankly in retrospect, 1-mana for card draw plus ability is way too cheap. It took 3/4 of a calendar year for this one, and might have to do with nerfing all Hunter toys at once.

Gadgetzan Auctioneer – 266 days

  • This card gets a lot of hate, but it was nerfed in GvG, which put away Miracle Rogue for a while. Leeroy was already out of the equation at this point, and may have been targeting MalyRogue, if it was big then.

Soulfire – 266 days

  • Obviously, this was nerfed because Zoolock was too good. At it’s 1-mana cost, it still sees play (wherever the Warlocks are).

Undertaker – 191 days

  • The first expansion card to get nerfed. And it took over half a calendar year to happen. GvG was one of the most aggressive sets overall, and it took Undertaker over the edge.

Blackrock Mountain

None

The Grand Tournament

Warsong Commander – 586 days (since Release); 201 days (since Grim Patron)

  • This one was big, as it put an end to the most oppressive form of Patron Warrior. It did take 201 days, since Grim Patron came out, but I’m sure the deck didn’t perfect itself overnight.

The League of Explorers

None

Whispers of the Old Gods – All Classic cards (773 days from Release to nerf)

Hearthstone Screenshot 01-14-16 22.44.01.png

Ancient of Lore

Force of Nature

Keeper of the Grove

  • The original Druidstone kappa. Ancient of Lore and Keeper of the Grove were cited for auto-inclusion, while Force of Nature was the piece of ForceRoar that took the nerf. Obviously, this long wait was because Druid was never amazing like Hunter, from the beginning.

Hearthstone Screenshot 01-10-16 22.38.30.png

Ironbeak Owl

Big Game Hunter

Hunter’s Mark

  • These cards all brought cheap hard removal, making big controlly minions still not be a thing in Hearthstone. Obviously, Hunter did not run Ironbeak Owl back in the day, and it was likely precipitated by all the prior Hunter nerfs. The long wait was definitely a meta call.

Blade Flurry

  • The classic “design space” meme, which was likely brought on by MalyRogue being at it’s peak prior to Old Gods. Blade Flurry was always great against Aggro, and this nerf was likely allowed since Aggro was weakened. It got the double-whammy and remains unplayed.

 

Knife Juggler

Leper Gnome

Arcane Golem

  • Two “Aggro announcers” and a charge-piece. Knife Juggler is the only one that still sees any play at all now, and this was all done to fight Aggro. Good calls all around here, precipitated by meta shifts.

Molten Giant

  • Handlock was once a thing. The patch notes state that this was allowed due to the nerfs to charge cards. Not sure about this one, as Molten Giant remains MIA.

Master of Disguise

  • This one could’ve happened whenever, but was cited for the reason Animated Armor wasn’t neutral. That card never saw play anyways, and this one didn’t either. Oh well, design space.

One Night in Karazhan

Call of the Wild – 160 days

  • This could be the Blizzard Paragon for nerf to broken card “not that long” after expansion. 160 days is not nothing, but is the quickest nerf in some time.

Execute – 935 days

  • Control Warrior in my eyes, was always super boring to play against. Nerfs don’t come for that specific reason, but this one took a really long time to materialize. It still sees play now, so this wasn’t that big a deal.

Rockbiter Weapon – 935 days

Tuskarr Totemic – 406 days; 252 days (since Old Gods)

  • Shamanstone was around since Old Gods, so this was the first response. Tuskarr Totemic didn’t see play until Old Gods, so this year plus wait is misleading.

Abusive Sergeant – 935 days

  • A dying breed! Another Aggro-announcer meets it’s end, cited for being in too many Aggro decks. Abusive Sergeant still exists here and there though.

Charge – 935 days

  • Pirate Warrior sprouted from Old Gods, and this was done to keep that deck in check. It is still alive and well, never really going away to a significant extent.

Yogg-Saron – 160 days

  • Another nerf that was done in fairly short time. It was a bit of a turning point, as random outcomes were never really denounced by Team 5. They were always a positive. The competitive community finally got a win in this battle.

Mean Streets of Gadgetzan

 

Hearthstone Screenshot 01-20-17 00.30.55.png

Small-Time Buccaneer – 91 days

  • Hey look, a rare card to be nerfed within it’s release era. Pretty much a staple for Warrior, Rogue, Shaman, anyone who can hold a weapon. Interesting that the card existed, given the nerfs to all the early Aggro cards. But a fairly timely response here.

Spirit Claws – 203 days

  • A bit overdue. Shamanstone finally ended with this nerf, but it was a long wait.

Journey to Un’Goro

The Caverns Below – 97 days

  • The controversial nerf that everyone was okay with in the end. I don’t think many at all, Rogue mains included, liked playing Quest Rogue. The source of contention, for me at least, is the explanation behind it. If cards that are not fun to play against get nerfed, a whole lot of Mage cards should fit the bill.

Best case scenario?

Recently, Small-Time Buccaneer and The Caverns Below were nerfed within their expansion windows, 91 and 97 days after, respectively. Call of the Wild and Yogg-Saron saw nerfs 160 days after release. Overperformers like Ultimate Infestation, Spreading Plague, and Crypt Lord are the targets here. It is useless to do this exercise for Innervate, as it would have the longest gap between nerfs ever, if it were to see a change. Unleash saw the shortest gap ever at 56 days, but it being the first nerf ever, we can’t rely on that timeline.

And just for those who have made it this far, Knights of the Frozen Throne has only been out 21 days. Unless this current Druidstone is so spectacular! that it causes a nerf never before seen.

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Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Top-performing cards in the early Frozen Throne Arena meta

Unlike Ranked, the Arena meta in Hearthstone typically doesn’t shift much during an expansion. People figure out which cards are good when they are released, and they are typically right on most of the evaluations. Through personal experience playing cards, a few cards will be reevaluated. Take Knights of the Frozen Throne for example. Upon the reveal of Bonemare, I think everyone knew it would be a top-3 Arena neutral for the set. The card will always be premium, probably until it gets rotated out of Standard.

The new Arena meta, or the so-called “Synergy Meta,” is a bit different, and we have seen upheavals from the previous power pyramid. I decided to look at the top cards from the new set for each class, and use that as a gauge to see how the class is doing.

Methodology

  • I went to hsreplay.net to look at Arena cards by deck winrate.
  • I sorted new cards to look at neutrals, and by-class.
  • I ranked each top-performing card by where they stand in the class card pool.

Top class card comparison

Gnash(62955).png

Gnash your teeth if you draft this, but don’t beat yourself up.

Druid

  1. Ultimate Infestation – 60.6% WR, #1 Druid card
  2. Malfurion the Pestilent – 60% WR, #2 Druid card
  3. Druid of the Swarm – 59.2% WR, #3 Druid card
  4. Fatespinner – 58.5% WR, #4 Druid card
  5. Webweave – 58.4%, t5 Druid card

If by some cruel twist, the main complaint of Ranked Hearthstone is also the best Druid class card for Arena. It is a new Arena development, as Druid was never top shelf in the format. The top Druid class cards all being new cards likely has something to do with the class’ rise in the ranks.

Play Dead(62891).png

The equilvalence of playing dead in arena.

Hunter

  1. Deathstalker Rexxar – 57.7% WR, #1 Hunter card
  2. Venomstrike Trap – 56.5% WR, #17 Hunter card
  3. Abominable Bowman – 55.7% WR, #31 Hunter card
  4. Corpse Widow – 55.7% WR, t31 Hunter card
  5. Professor Putricide – 55.5% WR, #34 Hunter card

Unlike other classes, Hunter doesn’t rely on card quality, rather playing the Aggro game to be faster than others. The new cards from this expansion weren’t too impressive relative to the Hunter class toolkit.

Glacial Mysteries(62869).png

Frankly a mystery why anyone would draft this.

Mage

  1. Frost Lich Jaina – 60.1% WR, #1 Mage card
  2. Sindragosa – 57.1% WR, #15 Mage card
  3. Coldwraith – 56.8% WR, #20 Mage card
  4. Ghastly Conjurer – 56.6% WR, #33 Mage card
  5. Breath of Sindragosa – 55.8% WR, #40 Mage card

How the mighty have fallen. The top two class cards for Mage are legendaries, but Frost Lich Jaina gets a decent boost (9.4% of all Arena Mages) from the synergy pick system. The Mage toolkit was lousy for the new set, with a couple of unplayable epic spells, and this helped bring the class down a bit. There were no “bomb spells.” Coldwraith is good, but everything else pales in comparison to the spells from Un’Goro and before.

Light's Sorrow(61833).png

This card is sad. Don’t draft it.

Paladin

  1. Uther of the Ebon Blade – 60.7% WR, #4 Paladin card
  2. Righteous Protector – 60% WR, #12 Paladin card
  3. Bolvar, Fireblood – 58.4% WR, #29 Paladin card
  4. Dark Conviction – 58.1% WR, #32 Paladin card
  5. Arrogant Crusader – 58% WR, #34 Paladin card

To show the quality of Paladin cards in Arena, Righteous Protector is just #12, and it is as good as it gets for a 1-drop. A lot of lackluster cards, but everything is overpowered to keep the class great. Note the reduction of Stonehill Defender, which makes it a must-pick draft rare.

Archbishop Benedictus(62856).png

This can be countered by blind drafting kappa.

Priest

  1. Shadowreaper Anduin – 59.4% WR, #1 Priest card
  2. Obsidian Statue – 55.4% WR, #20 Priest card
  3. Shadow Ascendant – 55.3% WR, #23 Priest card
  4. Embrace Darkness – 54.1% WR, #34 Priest card
  5. Spirit Lash – 54% WR, #35 Priest card

Seeing a trend here, yes the Death Knight heroes remain quite good. Obsidian Statue is a good card, but costing 9 likely has something to do it being just 20th best. Shadow Ascendant might be better in classes with more aggressive early game as well. Everything else is mediocre.

Leeching Poison(61821).png

A leech in your draft card quality.

Rogue

  1. Plague Scientist – 59.8% WR, #14 Rogue card
  2. Bone Baron – 59.7% WR, #16 Rogue card
  3. Shadowblade – 59.6% WR, #17 Rogue card
  4. Lilian Voss – 59.4% WR, #21 Rogue card
  5. Spectral Pillager – 58.4% WR, #36 Rogue card

It seems Death Knight Valeera is more of a Constructed build-around than Arena card. But, the Rogue got Plague Scientist, Bone Baron and Shadowblade, all decent cards to keep the class afloat. The class card kit is still spectacular, and the new cards don’t particularly hurt the class standing.

Moorabi(62845).png

Moorabi? More like, uh, Moo-don’t-draft-this.

Shaman

  1. Thrall, Deathseer – 54.2% WR, #17 Shaman card
  2. Brrrloc – 53.7% WR, #25 Shaman card
  3. Avalanche – 53.3% WR, #31 Shaman card
  4. Voodoo Hexxer – 52.8% WR, #41 Shaman card
  5. Snowfury Giant – 51.9% WR, #48 Shaman card

Shaman was definitely in the lower third in Un’Goro, and the new freeze class identity shift decelerated any Arena movement it had. I mean, the top class common/rare is Brrrloc, with a low winrate. Thrall, Deathseer seems solid in Constructed, where it might be easier to hold the board than in Ranked. The hero does nothing on an empty board. I expected Voodoo Hexxer to be one of the better cards, but that doesn’t appear to be the case right now. If the synergy pick is working correctly, Thrall, Deathseer should be offered 2x higher, like Frost Lich Jaina.

Howlfiend(62894).png

How to mill your deck in arena without clearing the board.

Warlock

  1. Bloodreaver Gul’dan – 59.9% WR, #1 Warlock card
  2. Despicable Dreadlord – 59.5% WR, #3 Warlock card
  3. Defile – 57.5% WR, #17 Warlock card
  4. Drain Soul – 56.5% WR, #30 Warlock card
  5. Gnomeferatu – 56.4% WR, #32 Warlock card

Arena Warlock was always fun in my book, and now is the time to reap. Some new ridiculous toys were added to the toolkit, and Bloodreaver Gul’dan (10.2%!) is seeing an offering bonus thanks to the synergy picks. Despicable Dreadlord is a stud. Defile will give humanities majors fits, but efficient board clear. The class has moved up a good deal.

Dead Man's Hand(62842).png

Literally a dead man or woman in arena because you drafted this.

Warrior

  1. Scourgelord Garrosh – 56.8% WR, #1 Warrior card
  2. Blood Razor – 52.1% WR, #12 Warrior card
  3. Forge of Souls – 52% WR, #13 Warrior card
  4. Mountainfire Armor – 51.3% WR, #16 Warrior card
  5. Val’kyr Soulclaimer – 49.3% WR, #37 Warrior card

The Arena doghouse class is still there. A lot of the cards had the “Whirlwind theme” which is more of a Constructed build around, than being good for Arena. Ravaging Ghoul is good since it fits being a 3-drop. Overcosted 5’s and 4’s aren’t that good. Maybe a fun challenge for good Arena players.

Wretched Tiller(62946).png
Funny voicelines but wretched pick.

Neutrals

  1. The Lich King – 59.9% WR
  2. Bonemare – 59.3% WR
  3. Keening Banshee – 58.8% WR
  4. Hyldnir Frostrider – 58.3% WR
  5. Deathspeaker – 57.9% WR

The Lich King is just OP and should be drafted over almost every legendary. You can make an exception for Death Knight heroes maybe, and a few good ones. The neutrals and rares on this list all are over-stated, or buff other minions to help preserve the board.

There you have it. Just by looking at class card rankings, you can estimate where the class is in the new Arena meta. Look forward to checking more data and numbers as the Arena meta keeps on moving.

Stream of Consciousness: You Play to Win the Game

Stream of Consciousness: You Play to Win the Game

Card game expansions are supposed to be about trying out new decks and theorycrafting new stuff. Maybe. If that’s fun for you.

In the past, I would do seemingly only do this in Ranked Hearthstone games. I’m not sure if I didn’t care about winning back then. I remember a lot of Reno Rogue games, where I was greedy with fitting in legendaries like Anub’arak. I remember playing a Miracle Mill Rogue. I remember playing a lot of Mech Rogue for Voltron.

Today, a couple weeks after the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne, I found myself playing Pirate Warrior. A Pirate Warrior who never plays the deck, and trades a little more than he ought to. Thanks to hsreplay.net, below is a graphic of my last Ranked Warrior games. I basically started the playing the deck for the first time in 4 months, and seem to take month-long intervals. Yes, I play very little Ranked, and only play Rogue.

pirate warrior.PNG

I guess a switch went off and I decided to hustle some wins. Here were my Ranked games prior to today.

losing.PNG

Besides the meta Evolve Shaman that eats it to Druid, my Rogue games consisted of offbeat stuff like Burgle Rogue, C’Thun Rogue, etc. Besides the low volume and low wins, I just wasn’t digging the “explore fun decks” process. I wasn’t going to keep playing unless I won some games. Prior to touching Pirate Warrior, my Ranked win rate this month was less than 50%. I deleted the Burgle Rogue list I made myself.

I’m not here to complain about Druids. I’m just noting that at some point, I stopped caring about exploring fun decks. The expansion is still young, heck the adventure still has Week 3 to go. Just saying that at some point the concentration of winning took over, and nothing else mattered. And I’m not much of a Ranked player to begin with.

I’ll keep playing Pirate Warrior in Ranked for now. Maybe I’ll be content when I get to Ranked 10. I’m not really enjoying it I would a Rogue deck, but I’ll take the wins.

I can blame the “Information Meta” we can’t leave, and how everyone has access to every single decklist. I can blame pro players from being too good and figuring it out so fast. I can blame my own inability to keep composure after losing. It’s probably some recipe of all of it, and it is loosening my already tepid desire to play Ranked Hearthstone at all.

A Call to Action (Nerfs): Shadowverse vs Hearthstone

A Call to Action (Nerfs): Shadowverse vs Hearthstone

Owing to the busyness of life changes, I haven’t paid as much attention to Hearthstone news as I did in the past. I am making time to play the game, squeezing in regular Arenas (which are now more fun) and occasional Ranked games. When I want to get serious, I will play Deathseer Thrall Evolve Shaman. When I play for fun, I am playing random Rogue decks with new cards, including a Burgle Rogue and C’Thun Rogue. Hence, my winrate has been terrible this season, and I am still Rank 15.

I’ve been hearing that Druid has been a big problem since the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion release, and whenever I log onto to Twitter, I hear a call for nerfs. I haven’t played at high enough level in Ranked to experience this scourge, so I do not have any opinions on the matter. But such an early call for nerfing a class reminded me exactly of what happened in Shadowverse, following the Wonderland Dreams expansion. Let’s take a look at the problem in both games, and see what can be done.

Hearthstone Screenshot 08-19-17 00.17.50.png
“You don’t stand a ghost of a chance”

Shadowverse

The latest expansion for Shadowverse, Wonderland Dreams, was released on June 22, 2017 in America. For those unaware, this expansion had a theme for Neutral cards with strong Neutral synergy cards or craft-specific cards that have strong Neutral synergy. I’m not sure how much work was put into play-testing for balance, but messing around with Neutrals is complicated, as all the classes are affected in different ways. This manifested in the Bloodcraft class becoming too good.

Shadowverse writes really detailed patch notes, so here they are, if you want to gander.

Based on a sample of high ranking players, they determined the Neutral Bloodcraft decks were present in 38.1% of the ladder, with a 56% win rate. 56% is a manageable win rate, but the 38% is obviously glaringly high. It might be okay in a game with 4 deck building choices, but not in one with so many like Shadowverse. The company decided to put nerfs in July 30, 2017.

Vania.png
Someone’s waifu, everyone’s bane.

Neutral Blood Nerf

As stated, the goal of nerfing these 4 cards was to: 1) lower rate of Neutral Blood decks, and 2) reduce the gap between going first and second with these decks.

  • Tove – minus 1 attack, minus 1 defense.
  • Baphomet – opening effect became more random, cost reduction gone.
  • Spawn of the Abyss – effect damage reduced by 2.
  • Goblin Leader – +1 cost, +1 attack, +1 defense.

Ramp Dragon Nerf

As is common with Shadowverse, they typically nerf something else to go along with the highly-desired nerf. They targeted Ramp Dragon decks, in fear they would be too strong with the Neutral Blood nerf.

  • Grimnir, War Cyclone – no longer hits enemy hero for 4, just 4 damage AoE to minions.
  • Ouroboros – heal +3 ability to hero gone.
20170621232151_1.jpg
Grimnir, hurting young children since he was released.

Havencraft Nerf

Finally, it was mentioned that the second highest deck, Haven Aegis (7.6%!) needs to be kept in check with a nerf.

  • Princess Snow White – minus 1 defense.

The patch notes wrap up by saying they may make monthly changes at the end of the month, if data shows anomalies.

Hearthstone

Druid problem

Druids are apparently out of control right now in Hearthstone. From what I can tell, there are currently two main Druid decks in the meta now: 1) Big Druid (with other ridiculous stylizations), and 2) Jade Druid.

I went on HSReplay.net to filter decks with new cards, by win rate.

top 10 kft meta.PNG

6 out of 10 of the new decks are Druid, with the other 4 being Paladin. These are fairly high win rates, with the most common deck being a Jade Druid deck with 57k replays. To those wondering, if you just filter top decks including old decks, it is still all Druid and Paladin.

Let’s look at top 10 new decks in terms of overall usage.

top 10 kft usage.PNG

The people want Warlock bad! Desperately! Druid is quite common here as well, with the 57k, high win rate Druid likely to keep climbing. 100k games were played with a Taunt-based Druid, which was likely shared as “ground-breaking” before a better version was found.

Let’s take a look at the common, KFT Jade Druid.

kft jade druid.PNG

The by-class matchups are telling, with the deck only not doing great against the mirror. Every other class matchup is above average or exceptional.

Shamanstone

Remember Shamanstone? Yeah, I scrubbed it from my memory as well. Let’s take a look at some Vicious Syndicate data tracking the highs of Shamanstone.

shaman highlight.PNG

Shaman as it is now, is a solid deck and 4th highest class today. Most decks are running the Evolve Shaman, so we can expect the deck to be around 10% of the Ranked meta. At the peak of Shamanstone, the class represented over 30% of all decks.

shamanstone.PNG

Here’s a look before Shaman hit 30%, which includes the release of One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan. Of course, these expansions were known for not doing much at all the Shaman. Karazhan notably gave Shaman more tools in Maelstrom Portal and Spirit Claws. Pirate Warrior brought down Shaman for about 2 weeks, before it started climbing to the rate over 30%.

The listed 10/3/16 balance changes notably did this to Shaman:

  • Rockbiter Weapon – costs 2.
  • Tuskarr Totemic – summon random basic totem.

This didn’t do much. A 2/28/17 patch did this to Shaman:

  • Small-Time Buccaneer – 1 health.
  • Spirit Claws – costs 2.

Shamanstone was finally over. I think Small-Time Buccaneer represents a card that was the closest to being a new card being nerfed in it’s expansion timeframe. It was released on 11/29/16 and nerfed on 2/28/17, about 3 months.

Expectations

Shadowverse and Hearthstone are similar games, but very different when devs come to making changes. It is fairly entrenched in Hearthstone philosophy to be super conservative when cards are changed. And typically, cards are made worse. Shadowverse changes cards all of the time, and doesn’t seem to be afraid of pulling the trigger on newly released cards. I am not knowledgeable enough in card games to say which is better, so I don’t know.

But even if Druid is a problem, I don’t expect changes to be made for a while. Knights of the Frozen Throne is a fairly new expansion, and new cards are likely left the way they are for a few months. Would old Druid cards get nerfed? Also, Skulking Geist is the infamous Jade Druid hate card that came along in this expansion. How long of a leash does that card get as being the savior against Druid? Would running 2 minions with bad stats ameliorate the situation?

A zombie tumbling out of the sky. The hero we don’t deserve, but need.